My unexpected admiration for girls’ softball started approximately ten years ago when my daughter, Carly, decided she wanted to give the sport a try. Being a longtime “baseball guy” I was sort of indifferent to her request at first but more than willing to grant her the opportunity if it was something that I thought she would enjoy.
Over the next several years I would spend enough days and nights coaching and running practices for her fast pitch teams that I should have taken up full-time residence at the local sports complex to save gas money commuting.
As time waned on, Carly chose to stop playing softball and pursued other interests. But the love I had developed over the years for my players and the sport remained. And given my love for all things related to the University of Louisville and its athletic teams, it seemed only natural to do a story on a sport that, while indirectly competing with Louisville Baseball for attention, may not always get the coverage and kudos it deserves – UofL Softball. In addition to the team itself, I also wanted to highlight one of the program’s biggest stars – junior pitcher and designated hitter Taylor Roby especially after learning a while back that her mother, Jennifer, went to the same high school I attended back in the day.
So if you’re a UofL fan but not overly familiar with the UofL Softball program, there’s never been a better time to start learning. Under the guidance of third year Head Coach Holly Aprile, the Cardinals currently showcase a 9-7 record (a gaudy 6-2 at home) after recently winning three straight. One of the biggest reasons for the team’s success thus far in 2021 has been the pitching and hitting of Roby and her teammates.
Roby, specifically, has been a beast on the mound and a terror for opposing pitchers when entering the box. Her legacy at UofL continues to grow with every pitch/every swing. To gain a better perspective on how Roby came to be the star that she is, here are some quick and condensed career highlights.
As a redshirt freshman, Roby….
- Led the Cardinals with a team low 2.62 ERA on the mound and a 14-4 record
- Finished third on the team with four home runs
- Hit a walk-off RBI single to beat then #23 ranked Kentucky & registered the win from the mound
- Blasted a solo HR in the 2-1 win over Northwestern in the Evanston Regional helping send the Cards to a Regional Final
As a redshirt sophomore (a season shortened by COVID-19) Roby….
- Led the Cardinals with a career-high 7 HRs, 16 RBIs & a .623 slugging percentage (tied for 4th in the ACC)
- Had a team best 2.00 ERA from the mound & 44 strikeouts in only 73.2 innings
- Registered a complete game win over then #21 ranked Ole Miss & Wisconsin
And, so far this season Roby through 16 games……
- Has already hit 5 home runs and driven in 20 runners while batting .419 (NOT TOO SHABBY)
- Has a 5-3 record on the mound while sporting a 2.98 ERA and 23 strikeouts
Roby from the mound (photo by Ryan Greenwood/Frenzy Designs)
So now that it’s been made crystal clear just how tremendous of a softball player she is, let’s discuss the backstory of Taylor Roby and who she is as a person.
According to Roby’s Mom, Jennifer, Taylor first began playing t-ball when she was only six years old in Medina, OH. Amazingly, Taylor did not make the cut for her 10U All-Star softball team. Perhaps that setback served as a golden motivator for Roby. Jennifer and her husband, Eric, said they started to notice Taylor’s raw talent and vast improvement soon thereafter around the age of 11. Like clockwork, every day Taylor would ask her dad to practice with her. She showed a true love for the game at an early age according to her Mom.
Taylor & her very first pitching coach, Charlie LeCompte, at her signing day @ Bullitt East HS
I had the opportunity to ask Jennifer about Taylor’s decision to play at UofL and she said the following, “Louisville was always Taylor’s dream school. Once they offered her a scholarship she instantly committed. Taylor wears a Play for Don bracelet every game in honor of the late Mr. Don Dobina. Mr. Dobina was Taylor’s travel ball coach when she played for the Louisville Lady Sluggers. UofL’s stadium is now named in his honor and Mrs. Susan Dobina holds a very special place in our family’s heart.”
In addition to her coaches and teammates, both previous and current, it’s clear that Taylor’s family is an integral part of her development as both a person and a player. Every morning on game day, Jennifer sends Taylor a motivational Tom Brady quote. According to Jennifer, their biggest hope as a family is that the Cardinals can find a way to make it to this year’s Super Regional in Oklahoma. And based on the way the program has blossomed in recent years, I find that to be very possible sooner than later.
In addition to talking to Taylor’s Mom, I was able to connect with Taylor herself to get her thoughts and perspective on life and softball. Below is an excerpt from our short discussion.
When did you know that you wanted to play softball at the collegiate level? TR: “Around the age of 11. I really wanted to be a pitcher b/c of Jackie Traina who as Alabama’s pitcher at the time.”
Who has had the biggest impact on your athletic career? TR: “My Dad b/c he pitched with me every day. My sister has also had a big impact because she ran track at Bellarmine and is so competitive.”
Taylor w/her older sister, Meghan, who was an 8-time All-American in track at Bellarmine and currently attending Podiatry School at Kent State
Why did you choose to attend UofL to further your academic and athletic career? TR: “My family lives close (Bullitt County) and I wanted my grandparents (Breckinridge County) to be able to see me play. I also wanted to play for a coach that would allow me the chance to hit and pitch. I wanted to really make a difference.”
If a new softball recruit was looking at UofL as a potential playing destination, how would you sell them on the program? TR: “I would show them all the great things the city of Louisville and the University had to offer.”
I want to cordially thank the Roby family for taking the time to help me with this article. If there is anything UofL Sports related that I am confident about after having written this piece it’s the following: with Taylor Roby in the lineup, the Louisville Softball program going forward will continue to be a program on the rise. Now it’s time for the fans to continue taking notice.
The Cardinals next game is at home this Friday, March 19th at 7:00 PM EST as they open ACC play and host the Clemson Tigers. I’m confident that Taylor and her teammates would love to see you in attendance. Leave your brackets at home.